MMS Blog

Imagine that a machining facility’s staff size is fixed and so is its floor space. It is already running multiple shifts, so available production time is essentially fixed as well. In other words, assume that in terms of people, space and time, this shop has nowhere to go—no practical way to expand. Many shops do not have to imagine this set of conditions, because these details describe their reality. How does a shop facing these constraints increase its capacity?

The answer is to upgrade to machines that deliver more output within those constraints. One way to do this is through an uncommon machine tool choice, and perhaps an underappreciated one: the two-spindle vertical machining center (VMC).

23. February 2018

Rough Cutting Reinvented

High-efficiency roughing often puts speed at the top of the priority list. But with traditional CNC programming, high-speed cutter paths can generate high levels of variability that not only wear down your cutting tool but also force the programmer to plan for worst-case parameters.

Traditional roughing passes use a series of offset radial passes, causing increased cutter engagement of the tool at every internal corner. This leads to spikes in cutter forces and vibration increases, when the tool is most prone to breakage.

Neural networks are not scary.

Or so says Conrad Tucker, associate professor of engineering at Penn State University. Neural networks—artificial intelligence (A.I.) systems using advanced computing to aid in problem-solving—are tools that will eventually become accepted and widely employed by engineers. He is part of a team of researchers that recently won a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for a project that will train a computer system to invent. If this work realizes its aim, it will impact manufacturing because of the role manufacturing plays in invention.

I’ve written a number of articles about on-machine probing as have other Modern Machine Shop editors. (You can find these articles in our Inspection and Measurement Zone.) These probes for machine tools generally come in two flavors—touch-trigger and scanning. The most common use for touch-trigger probes, which take data points one touch of a part at a time, is to use them during setups to automatically determine the position of a part fixtured on a machine and then update the coordinate system to match the part location. What I hadn’t considered is how scanning probes, which scan a part surface to take many data points and are typically used for on-machine inspection routines, can further reduce setup times compared to touch-trigger probes. Learn more here.

One way to improve the quality of injection molded parts is through a variotherm, or dynamic, approach to controlling mold surface temperature. This strategy requires that the mold surface temperature react as quickly and homogeneously as possible to changes in coolant temperature, helping to avoid shrinkage and other defects in the part. Additively manufactured mold components are especially well-suited to this strategy, because they can incorporate conformal cooling channels that closely follow the mold’s surface geometry for better responsiveness.

A recent case study from GF Machining Solutions details the redesign of a mold for a valve component that was prone to shrinkage. After other approaches—such as changing the material of the mold and dividing the core into three different components—failed to ensure the necessary reaction speed in the mold components, the company turned to a solution incorporating metal additive manufacturing.

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